In one of American golf’s most tradition-bound regions, in one of its most traditional clubs, people are clinging to one of the game’s most ardent — yet dying — traditions as the 21st century bears down on it.
Sankaty Head Golf Club is located on the easternmost shore of scenic Nantucket Island, about two and a half hours from Boston, and features stunning Atlantic Ocean views. The classic course, which opened in 1921, still possesses a working lighthouse. And while uniformed caddies dot dozens of the well-heeled private clubs in the region and elsewhere, Sankaty is the only residential private club left in the U.S. to feature caddy camps.
Forming a well-worn, humble resident kingdom, 70 boys, ages 13 to 19, come to Nantucket from around the country every summer. They arrive as kids looking for an adventure and emerge as young men and future business leaders.
“There is really nothing else like it,” says former Sankaty caddy Matt Donovan. “I have to say, it was really one of the best experiences of my life.”
Now a successful public-relations executive in Los Angeles, Donovan is one of hundreds of caddies who have emerged from Camp Sankaty Head since 1930 and consider themselves better for the experience. Founded nine years after the private club opened, the camp is a passion forged by shared friendship, work, pranks, sacrifice and love for the game and its traditions ?— and it has withstood 82 years of progress. Even last year’s huge fire, which caused a great deal of damage, couldn’t dampen the passion felt for the camp.
“When I heard about the fire last summer, it was a shock for sure,” Donovan says. “But within three weeks, we had raised all the money in rebuilding the cabins. That’s the way people feel about these things.”